A lot of youth have a hard time understanding that God isn’t just some casual being floating around on a cloud; God is very real. Perhaps the most “real” part about God are instances where God seems unhappy or displeased. We’re not talking about God smiting people with lightning bolts; we’re talking about things that God sees in our lives which make Him mad, sad, or disappointed. This lesson is a break from our normal series and focuses on what exactly makes God “mad” and why we should care as Christian.
This is a lesson I really enjoy because it shows that Christianity is a REAL thing on an emotional level. A lot of people have the idea that being a Christian is about following this Ghandi-like figure who is always calm and just walks around saying peaceful things. The reality is that God definitely has a ‘wrath’ that He displays throughout the Bible. We see it all the time in the Old Testament. God sent a flood to cleanse creation in Genesis and God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah due to their rampant sin. Jesus didn’t rain hellfire down on his enemies, but he definitely got mad.
It’s important to keep in mind the difference between emotion and motivation. Often when we get mad, it’s because of our pride or some other issue we have. Jesus’ anger is often referred to as ‘righteous indignation’. Let’s talk about some of the different things that caused Jesus to get down-right mad.
Most of the time when Jesus gets angry, it’s the result of other religious leaders. Ironic that the people who were viewed as being ‘holy’ were also the people who caused Jesus to get the most agitated. One great example of Jesus getting angry can be found in Matthew 23.
The first thing we see in Matthew 23 is that Jesus gets mad WHEN PEOPLE BRAG ABOUT THEIR FAITH. Take a look at verses 5-12 for what we mean by “special”.
They do everything to be seen by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. You are not to be called instructors either, because you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:5-12)
In this section, Jesus explains both WHY this is bad and what the CONSEQUENCES are of putting ourselves spiritually before others.
The ‘why’ is that when we put special “status” on our own faith, especially as it relates to others, we are effectively taking GOD’S PLACE. The truth is that the Bible places a strong emphasis on the equality of all mankind. We know that all have sinned and all are covered by the grace of Christ. The fact is that all people are equally sinful and equally beautiful in the eyes of God. The instant we start bragging about our own relationship with God, we are trying to say we’re not like all the other sinners; we’re something better. Something better than man is, by definition, a god. When we put ourselves spiritually above others, we’re making a little god of ourselves which Jesus simply can’t stand for.
The ‘consequences’ of putting ourselves above other people is that God will ensure we come AFTER OTHERS in heaven. This is one of those things that we can’t totally understand without… well… being in heaven, but what we can be assured of is that if we are seizing glory for ourselves, we are in effect giving ourselves our own reward for living a holy life. Whatever God has in store for us, it’s certain to be worse than what God has to offer so we’d be wise to avoid trying to put ourselves above others and instead focus on who God makes us.
As we read further down, we hit verse 16.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are! (Matthew 23:16)
Carrying the mantle of a Christian isn’t something to take lightly. The Pharisees were responsible for sharing God with others and making sure other people knew what it meant to praise God. However, they led lives that missed the entire point of what God was trying to tell the people of Israel. They spent so much time teaching proper Jewish religion that they lost sight of who God was and what He taught in the scriptures. We may not be religious teachers in the formal sense, but every person who bears the title of ‘Christian’ has taken on a special responsibility because people are watching you. They learn from your actions and the example you set. It’s something we should all be careful of protecting, whether we carry the title of “preacher” or not. Avoid teaching people false lessons about God through your lifestyle.
Let’s keep reading and see how Jesus gets angry at PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIVE OUT WHAT THEY PREACH.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)
Jesus spoke out against hypocrites many, many times in the Bible. Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about the impact God has in our hearts and the impact God has in our minds. This is something God can’t stand and for good reason. If you look at several of the Old Testament prophets, many of them spoke out against the priests who had forgotten what God really cared about. In Hosea 6:6, God speaks through the prophets to say that He desires “mercy, not sacrifice”. What does this mean? It means that God wants hearts that cry out for Him rather than grand displays of devotion. It would be like a girl having a boy friend who loved making grand displays of affection, but in his heart was thinking of other girls. No one would call that “boyfriend of the year”. However, that’s exactly what many people do with their relationships with God… and it makes God angry.
There are tons of examples of Jesus speaking out, forcefully, against hypocrites and others who questioned God’s authority, but the most famous is probably shortly after he entered Jerusalem the week he would be crucified.
Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves!” (Matthew 21:12-13)
Here, we see that Jesus gets angry WHEN GOD’S SOVERIEGNTY IS DISRESPECTED. The money changers and vendors were performing services for people who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. A part of this celebration was giving a monetary offering to the Temple and sacrificing an animal. Because only certain animals could be offered and Jewish money could be accepted, there were vendors in the temple to ‘change money’ from pagan currencies into those accepted by the temple… for a nominal fee, of course. The same business practices were taking place with the animal vendors. To make matters worse, these vendors were occupying space in the temple reserved for worshipers traveling from all over the known world. Because of these vendors, the Temple’s main purpose had to be put aside in favor of giving people the ability to lie and cheat worshippers.
Through Christ’s anger, we can see what is possibly the biggest facet of who God is: God is supreme. There is nothing higher, greater, or more holy than God. When God gets mad, it’s not because of petty jealousy or pride; it’s because God is infinitely supreme and when things stand to challenge God’s supremacy, it makes God angry.
So what do we take from all of this? If we love God and have a relationship with God, we will seek to avoid things which make God sad, mad, or disappointed. A lot of times we focus on what it means to live in a way that makes God happy, but by also studying the things that make God upset, we can help keep ourselves accountable. Are we living in a way that glorifies God or are there things we do that start looking like the same types of things Jesus got mad at in the Bible?